Saturday, June 28, 2008

Wall-E

I was captivated the moment I saw the trailers long back: a tale of a lonely robot cleaning up the earth falls in love with another robot - too good to miss.

----Possible spoilers included------

The outline of the story is this: Earth has become a garbage dump largely due to a monopolistic company which is the new government; they decide to go on a five year space voyage while earth is rejuvenated by robots doing the cleanup; this doesn't go well, the 5 year voyage becomes one of 700 years with humans becoming largely incompetent. Meanwhile this lonely robot goes about his chores and meets a probe(robot) sent to detect regrowth of life. Wall-E falls in love with 'her', who when detects a plant goes into hibernation mode and is taken back to the mother ship to prove life is possible again on earth. Wall-E follows her. And then the rest is about the adventures on board while deciding whether to return to earth or not, entangled with the love story.

Further detail....

Wall-E's is the only robot left on earth after 700 years, along with a single cockroach. He watches a '60s clip on tape via an iPod, imagining how it would be to hold hands with someone else, dancing. He collects interesting things from the dump he is designed to compact, like lighters, bulbs, and so comes across a single plant in a toolbox. The cockroach is his 'pet', feeding it, cajoling it.
He feels very sad at not having a companion like himself.

Then one day this probe lands, ejecting another robot, Eva, supposed to test for life. 'She' is very apprehensive about this guy, avoiding him, misunderstanding him.

But Wall-E is attracted to her at first sight. He want to keep her company, hold her hand, share things with her.... After all, after such a long time of just watching holding of hands on screen, he wants to do it for real.... Only if... She would agree....

But then she is shown the plant which Wall-E had discovered - she automatically stores the plant within herself and hibernates - waiting for the probe to return and pick her up. Wall-E is confused by this sudden shut down and cares for her even then - placing her outside of his small cabin hoping sunlight would do her good or her probe comes back to pick her up - and bring her back to 'life'.

The probe comes back, he hangs on as the probe docks with the mother ship - the one on which the humans are still on a voyage.

Wall-E is still very devoted to Eva. As she is being repaired he mistakes it as she being dismantled, and tries to save her but ends up sabotaging the repair section releasing all the rogue robots.

The plant is a threat to the robots who control the ship because they will be irrelevant if the humans return to earth, so they try to remove the plant whereas Wall-E, Eva and the captain of the ship want to save it. Thence lies some action.

The movie is wonderful because with almost no dialogue and just actions, the sad, desolate life of a robot have been sketched beautifully. Even in the very end, when Wall-E for a moment does not seem to remember his past, you can feel a touch of compassion for the two.. It shows that true, undying relationships are effective if and only if both are aware of how special they are.. Initially it is all Wall-E, later Eva realises that Wall-E truly liked her, taking care of her even when he knew she wouldn't feel it... Happy ending anyway.

The second half of the movie, toward the end is bogged down by trying to include humans, the ending seems to be somehow out of shape in the movie. Humans who've never walked before do so with no effort, the captain's knowledge seems to be amusing.. the first half is so much better and they could've kept it that way.

The cockroach seems indestructible; the other robots have questionable behaviour differences(Mo the cleaner helps in saving the plant, autopilot is not as intelligent as would be wished for... on that note, the robots seem to have been programmed with different levels of intelligence) as the movie progresses. The movie casts the robots as being very very intelligent.

Animation, by Pixar is amazing. It's just too good. The eyes zoom in/out like human eyes, the dust scattering, controlling of zillions of objects to react to a tremor.... Phew...

Should you watch the film? mmmmm... Maybe not.. No hurry to watch it.

The inseparable love of one for another..... Wall-E.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Johnny(1980), a review

Johnny or Johny or Jani is a Tamil film starring Rajnikanth (Rajni or Rajini) in double roles and Sridevi as the female lead. The outline of the movie is the intertwining lives of the two Rajnis, with them turning over a new leaf, not always for the good.

However the wider messages intended are very subtle - and as with movies of the past, there are many stories and sub-plots embedded.

The first Rajni(Johnny), shown stealing a car, swindling a jeweller, duping a sale, is actually looking to repay his father's losses in business caused by the 'other' wife's family, notwithstanding the fact that his mother, i.e. his father's second wife, did not give as much attention to them. Johnny explains this benevolence to his mother's love for her husband, even though his father didn't reciprocate it.

This relationship with his father had a deep mental effect on Johnny, making him behave with indifference to women. Enter Sridevi - with a voice of a nightingale, with Johnny going to her concert with deception in mind, only to be smitten by her performance, captivating him, making him listen to her songs on a recorder. Their relationship slowly goes beyond friendship, atleast for Sridevi. She makes advances, asking him to marry her.

The scenes between Johnny and Sridevi are amongst my favourite of all time, because of their wonderful acting. The beach scene, where she chances upon him listening to her songs. Then they walk along, talking to each other. I believe it is to the director's credit that Rajni and Sridevi delivered their dialogues as though they were in a real life conversation. This is attested by Sridevi tripping yet continuing, hands in pockets, flying hair... This unique style continues in all the scenes featuring Rajni and Sridevi, like when Sridevi discovers its Rajni1's birthday and the outing(when the lilting music plays). The highlight of the film is when Sridevi tells him to marry her.

This scene draws out the dramatic best of the two performers. Johnny, vary of any commitment, tries his best to gauge Sridevi's intentions, while she, assuming his innocence, pushes to make the relationship permanent. Ultimately, the intimate emotions of a woman break him down, not after he deliberates and realises he must come clean on his actions. The slow, one-to-one dialogues adds to the suspense with Sridevi turning from happy and expectant to sad and Johnny from being defensive to grudgingly accepting.

On the other side is the character of Vidyashankar, a stingy, lonely, introverted barber living his own life. Maintaining a house 'in harmony with nature' and a wonderfully 'audited' garden, he seems to enjoy his lacklustre clockwork job at a star hotel. Until, that is, a car crash sets him up with a life-changing opposite. She, Bama, a casual worker, finds her way into his life, after rescuing him from the crash, by appealing emotionally to him. She slowly becomes part of his life, doing his chores, cooking, rearranging his house... The degree of intimacy(Vidyashankar's involvement rather) is such that he buys her clothes, in the belief that she would be his partner.. forever.

This is another example shown, of the effect of women on men, how men are at the recieving end(hey, it happens in the film, don't frown at me!). Vidyashankar's relationship is soon on the rocks, when he realises that the woman who he thought would be with him ditched him for a guy with a seemingly higher status in society. She says, having their children recollect their father to be a barber would be such an embarassment, she wouldn't like to live with it. Vidyashankar is deeply disturbed at this rebuttal, all he has are words of advice, very true ones too. He advises that it was a barber who paid for her clothes, and even reminds her that she too 'was' a labourer. These hold good for us too, because we have to remember that we cannot deny who we are, we have to accept who we are, never speak ill of others.

And so when Vidyashankar sees his love going away with the other guy, his once solitary life, made solitary again, although with so much pain, he kills Bama and the other guy.

The rest of the movie follows the path of the two men, with Vidyashankar being mistaken for Johnny by Sridevi, and the former, courtesy the treatment he recieves, comes to change his recent opinions that all women cannot be trusted. Seeing Sridevi's true love, he decides to give himself up for the sake of Johnny, taking up all his sins.

Two different interactions with women, with stark results. One woman attracted by character, another by the lure of big money. A cheat is ready to surrender for love, another surrenders to love and takes things into his own hands.

The experience of the movie is exemplified by the music, not only the songs, but also the bg score, by the maestro Ilayaraja. Nattu noted that after watching 7/G he was left wondering where he had heard that film's theme somewhere, then noting that it was in this film which kindled his memories. Of course, Nattu is so passionate about Rajni. There are especially two pieces of music which linger in your ears, both also are played in the climax, which a good samaritan has uploaded to YouTube(along with the Johnny-Sridevi drama scene mentioned above). Who can forget the infamous scintillating dance routine in Aasaiya Kathule... Ooooh...

The comedy relief is nice, and I must say, though there aren't too many supporting actors, they do a great role - supplementing the storyline with a convincing presence. I specially refer to Sridevi's helper, Johnny's sidekick and the rich Gulti guy.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie because it was a throwback to the days when Rajni actually did drama roles before he did his present day flambouyant characters. Johnny is the original Rajni in play, Vidyashankar is a cautious role, expecting order and always critical of his surroundings. Sridevi did awesome, such a perfect portrayal.

Thinking of it, making a movie like this will be difficult today, least of all because such a down-to-earth script will not be accepted by anyone, also because finding the right cast will be very very tough. I am pretty sure remaking this movie today will not be possible simply because finding actors who can deliver a powerful performance despite being modest, is easier said than done.

A rare classic from Rajni.

Gaffes.. a few here and there. Ooty and Madras are a couple of kilometres away, the recorder disappears from Rajni's pocket after the beach scene, the moustache on Vidyashankar seems to be a paintjob, Rajni briefly enters the frame after his scene when he is selling the house to the Gulti. I loved the dog on Vidyashankar's bed, it sits there motionless, which is a great feat since that dog didn't seem to be a trained dog. It was so cute.

Monday, June 9, 2008

'Most beautiful women'

The Japanese have wonderful ideas; this is one of their crazier. Their logic is approach a random woman; tell her to introduce her most beautiful friend to them, and so on, till you reach no. 12, who will be one in so many women. The formula used by them, I haven't understood apart from deciphering that it is 1/(2^((n*2)-1)), for the nth woman they approached.

Here it is for Colombian, Italian and French women. The technique is effective to an extent.

I am ready to go on record, and say that, if ever there was such a list composed for an Indian city, I will faint halfway through the list.